Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Off Beet

Some beautiful fresh beets from Aprilla farms via the Cape Ann Farmer's Market. Can't abide beets... just kidding.

Readers may recall my basic formula for vegan dumpling fillings is a green, a mushroom, a root, and an allium. In this case, baby bok choy (also from Aprilla farms, reconstituted dried abalone mushrooms, shredded beets, and scallions.

The filling is parcooked just enough to wilt so it folds easy. Here's a bunch of dumplings, mine and my sister-in-law protege... can you tell which is which? Most folded as gyotze, with a couple of demo shumai there in the foreground.

Here they are cooked, crisp on the bottom and chewy on the top, with a soy/sugar/vinegar/garlic/ginger/scallion/sesame dipping sauce. they looked awesome, with the beets marbelizing the translucent wrappers. And when you bit them, they looked a little like meat. But they weren't, so you could eat a million of them, steaming hot and dripping sauce over your plate. Pass me another couple.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

PYO Lobster and A Modest Proposal.

My first and as of this writing only lobster taken on snorkel. I caught this in about 12 feet of water, at low tide in Rockport. Totally worth buying the permit to have this memory. Here's the lobster, next to the guage -- you can check it yourself with photoshop, if you've a mind.

The lobster dished up proper with black bean sauce, since I had some baby bok choy from Aprilla farms, at the Farmer's Market. I didn't (ie, never) work from a recipe, but I've seen this dish and experimented a million times (up to and including cutting up the lobster before you cook it. Don't. The meat adheres to the shell, and it's a mess to eat). It's a pretty direct process for me now. And I used black beans from scratch -- not a prepared sauce.

Were you inclined to do it yourself: Steam whole lobster. Cool, clean, and crack all joints on all appendages. Set aside, keep such contents of the shell as you'd enjoy adding to the sauce later. Saute crushed garlic and ginger with soaked fermented black beans. Add broth, greens, whole lobster, a little broth with corn starch, tune sweet and salt with palm sugar syrup and soy sauce. Look at that baby... I think a shout out to Dennis Liu is due here, who took me to my first asian grocery in C-town back in the day.

Finding lobsters is not hard; find legally sized lobsters is very difficult because they are under so much pressure, between pots and divers, that they get taken the moment they molt and become big enough to gauge. Of they few lobsters I've taken on SCUBA (less than a dozen since I was certified in '88) most of them were barely legal, and soft (ie, recently molted, and I got to them first).

As much fun as catching lobsters on SCUBA can be, I don't think the environment can sustain it. Plus, divers can dig and move rocks -- you'll do anything in the heat of the moment to bring up a trophy -- in a way more disruptive than traps. To say nothing of recreational poachers, that lowest of life forms, who should be used as bait. Live bait. In chunks. I grew up friendly with a lobstering family in Hull, summers back in the 70's, and it was common knowledge that anyone fiddling with traps could expect -- and soundly deserved -- a peppering with birdshot.

I propose diving for bugs be banned and replaced with the following compromise: Divers may take lobsters only on snorkel, and in return, there will be shallow water diver sanctuaries with no lobster pots, so the take will be better in the free diver's limited range. Or maybe no sanctuaries, but give the free divers a slightly shorter limit, like 3" instead of 3 1/4" and only males, something to give them an edge. Because it's hard to hold your breath that long.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Halfshells On The Halfshell, or Neck With Me

I made sushi for my sister in law, and, well, thank goodness Intershell is open until six.

Anyway, the topnecks -- or countnecks -- whatever necks, they looked beautiful, and called to me from the ice, like the oysters in Alice. Opened cleanly, not a tough one in the batch, and I caught every drop of liquor in the scallop shell. Served cold with my world famous chili/lime/palm sugar/fish sauce and a dab of seaweed salad.

I hadn't had these in ages and they were just ... perfect. It consummates the relationship with the seashore like swimming. You go in the sea, you put some of the sea in you. I never got the hang of oysters, but these were fresh, crisp, salty, icy cold... I see another stop at Inteshell in my future.

Banana PBJ: Hit Me!

Chicken wings aren't the only thing that make me hear funky baselines. This sandwich was specifically constructed to be high calorie -- and yummy -- for a day I skipped breakfast and had a lot to do. Thick sandwich bread, chunky peanut-only peanut butter, a thick schmear of brand name strawberry jam, and sliced bananas, baby, wrapped tightly in saran for at least a half hour to get some integrity. But where I love PBJ's that have sat around all night, that's not so friendly with bananas, and this sandwich has a shelf life of only a couple hours.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nice Cleavage!

Man, I was waiting to use that line...

I built a 'croc walk' for my kids' summer camp, using discarded lobstering rope and a couple of four by fours. I needed multiple easy, clean cuts and the cleaver is just the way to go. And more fun, too.

Line up your cut and whack! through the bottom strands. You have to think your cut what supports the object, and end with a crack to get every strand. Perfect cuts: clean, neat, doesn't disturb the lay of adjacent rope. The rest of the rope doesn't even know it happened.

That there cleaver is Onibocho. Well, one of the two knives I call Onibocho. When I finally get that big-ass gyoto from Shinichi Watanabe, that will be the new Onibocho.

Polly's Law (or Whitefish Spread)

Quick breakfast for guests when I wanted to balance getting out the door with having something nice. Quick run to Market Basket produced a chunk of Acme whitefish, flaked into a bowl, and thrown on an unset table with two ciabattas (freshest loaf at MB at the moment), a tub of cream cheese, a pickle plate (two kinds of olives, dill pickles, pepperonci) and a bagel fixin's plate (sliced purple onion, tomato, chopped dill pickles (poor man's capers; essential), carrots for border and color, and fresh minced scallions mixed into room temperature cream cheese. Get your own plate and silver and enjoy.

And you know, looking this over in contrast to the phrase 'getting out the door quick' and I'm thinking, this is what you do when you want to get out the door quick? Give me a break. Admittedly, for guests, but still...

I carpooled with Polly for a year, and we're still friends, and she'll read this. Polly was late more than once because of a breakfast that got out of hand on my part, and I'm sure saw similar behavior in preparing snacks and god knows what else. Thus Polly's law, and I quote her: 'Never let Michael near food.'

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vindaloo Dipping Sauce

Easy. Take a spoonful of vindaloo curry from a jar, mix well with an equal amount of olive oil, and serve with a good crusty bread. In this case, it's a whole wheat, paper thin pita from a bakery in worcester, also at the Indian market. But frankly, my preferred tipple for dipping will always be a crusty baguette.

The Other Tuna Melt

Grilled cheese with fresh tomato, and a side of seared tuna, drizzled with soy and eaten right off the cutting board.

Triscuits and Stinky Cheese

I like blues, gorgonzolas, that kind of thing. I really like Saga Blue (Saga Bleu!) and Cambezola and those spreadable, high fat spreadable veined cheeses.

This is a domestic smoked blue, very nice, with triscuits, one of my favorite substrates for cheese. Yes, I said 'substrate'.


And I think this is the real deal... technically, tapenade should have capers, 'cause the nice folks at wikipedia say it's from the Provencal word for capers, tapenas.

Olives, anchovies, olive oil, capers, chopped fine but not too fine. Crusty bread, glass of wine (really, I'd probably have it with diet coke, shame), maybe a salad, and I'd be fine.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Roti Toti

Roti from an Indian grocery store, and applied roti theory: Roti first heated and softened directly on the flame of the gas burner, turn it just when you smell burn. Breakfast sandwich of an egg cooked to roti size, sharp chedder cheese (Cabot's Private Stock Extra Sharp, thank you, it comes in *black plastic*), a generous squirt of sri racha (yeah, baby) and another scorched roti on top. Flipped once or twice in the cooling cast iron to melt the cheese and seal the deal.


My homemade pita, cooked at the top of the oven between the broiler and hot cast iron. Called plierbread because I use the pliers of my Leatherman, claws, to move the hot pans around.

Puffed like a blimp, odd shapes, and steam in the morning sunlight.

Pizza Fixin's

Whipping up a pan o' stuff to add some drama to a plain cheese pizza. This is all pantry and fridge, mind, but just the thing.

This is green olives, rehydrated abalone mushrooms, onions, fried shallots, chives and oregano from the garden, kosher salt, and a little bit of anchovy. Gotta have those glutamates. Spread in a layer as thick as the slice itself (a good formula, I think).


Yes, dear. Of course I'll make you a Mojito. How could I not? Food is love. Recipes all over the net... I don't even remember how I made this one now, but I worked backward from a pretty clear mental picture of 'mint limeade for grownups'. I could create that now without a recipe.

I was more curious about the derivation of the name. A quick internet search gives theories including sex and magic, where a quick trip to Uncle Cecil at the Straight Dope acknowledges those two but says 'mojar' is to celebrate by drinking, so a little celebration in a glass. Enjoy, dear.

His and Hers Rice Bowls

A sort of Far East meets Southwest: Rice and beans with Thai basil and a sprig of lime. Hers: Smaller. More Dainty. His: bigger portion, and a heap of thai chilis. I cannot abide beans and rice without heat. I'd rather eat shoe leather with chilis than beans and rice without.

I'm a big fan of calling ahead for take out, and finding the best value item on a menu. At Ocean Garden here in Gloucester, it's the noodle soup for two, if you make it a meal for one. That's five bucks, and beats a sub on a rainy day. But it needs touching up first, I can't abide their broth... I think it's a classic case of downplaying the good stuff for white people. In this case a splash of soy, sesame oil, and oil chili for heat makes it more to my liking.

It's Miflard Time

Yes, it is. For those of you new to this forum, MIFLARD is the acronym of Make It Feel Like A Real Dinner'. Very important for socializing young boys, or making the best of leftovers.

The meal is the basic unit of family harmony and discipline. The first gesture of love an infant gets is 'have a suck on this' and the first boundary is a reprimand to be gentle. It's worth putting in the effort to make it special.

Carrot and celery sticks (or something a touch more elaborate for grownups, pictured), pickles, something extra to put a couple extra dishes on the table and give folks the feeling of choice.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sweet, Salt, and Sour Wings

Ah, yeah... I'm hearing a Barry White bass line right now... or maybe 'Business Time', by Flight of the Conchords... you know you wanna just reach out and touch those, take them in your teeth, I know I do...

Ahem, excuse me.

Anyway, some poor guest of mine couldn't handle hot wings, so I made these instead. Homemade teriyaki type glaze with light soy, dark soy, sugar, garlic, light touch rice vinegar. Basted early and basted often, cooked to a crisp glaze. Jesus, I need a cold shower.

Flight Of Sliders

Three BFTLT's (that's Bacon Fried Turkey, ie turkey cold cuts fried in canola oil 'til brown and crisp, lettuce, and tomato.

Martin's wonderfully squishy potato flour hamburger rolls, plenty of mayo, fresh tomatoes. Good lunch at work... how can you go wrong?


Swiss chard, just cut in the garden. Quick-fried with soy, a little ginger, a little garlic.

Swinging Both Ways

Vegan pan fried noodles and dumplings. The tofu is first pressed, dusted in corn starch, crisped in hot oil, then while the noodles are frying on the bottom and steaming on the top (drop in a quarter cup water and cover tightly), the stir fry is assembled and added to the noodles in a pre-heated dish.

The dumplings are hand filled and folded. My standard formula for a vegan filling is a mushroom, a green, an allium, and a starch, most likely napa, shredded scallion, rehydrated abalone mushrooms, and carrot.

That there venison, on the other hand, was shot by hunter buddies of my neighbor next door, and we have a very cordial arrangement involving the occasional exchange of protein and use of a snowblower, most satisfactory. Sliced thin and cooked expertly with onion by my friend David Mager: 'slide the venison across the pan and into the serving dish...'

Bagel Pizza

You know you want it... look at those babies, fresh from under the broiler and sliced in clean quarters for easy eating. Cut with my curved chinese cleaver that laughs at high-tensile cheese floating over squishy sauce (the only knife I named: Onibocho, which means demon knife in Japanese. Cost me nine bucks, I think).

Anyway, toast the bagel first for a good crust! This is the critical step in bagel pizza, too often neglected by people who have no consideration for the finer points in the art. If you can melt on a medium sharp cheddar, over a sauce (of forgotten origin, I'd like to think I made it but there may have been some Newman's Own kicking around) as I have done here, so much the better.

Don't forget the simple, ordinary, healthy, good stick-to-your-ribs stuff in the rush for a microwaved quick fix.

The Kramer of Soft Drinks?

'He's a loathsome, offensive brute, but I can't look away'. Well, autocrat isn't that bad, but there's more HFCS here than anything else. I took the plunge after the Globe reviewed the three local brands and hey, this one is the state drink of Rhode Island. Thoroughly enjoyed it, but did not get another one.

Garlic Beans

Ends trimmed, sauteed green in my big wok/pan hybrid, tossed at the last minute with garlic, light soy, palm sugar...


Pretty things. Steamed tender, and served with a sweetened rice vinegar-mayonnaise dip. Simple, but pretty and worth the attention.

super aged cheddar

Old cheddar, that any sane person (those who eat fugu are stupid; those who do not eat fugu are also stupid) probably would have thrown away. It had nearly crystallized, like good parmesan. Very sharp. Crumbled and melted on toast.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Salmon and Avocado Maki

You don't need to know every time I throw down a maki roll, but these are pretty enough to share. Except for that bloody looking travesty on the wooden platter, somewhere near the bottom. It's a spicy tuna roll gone badly awry, and I was horrified enough to give it a name: the Lizzie Borden roll.
I get my accessories, nori and wasabi and rice and whatnot, in the Chinatown markets mostly, because they are cheaper. The crab stick is from Intershell, and I get my tuna and salmon from the nice folks at Connelly's seafood here in Gloucester. If I call first thing in the morning, Brad will cut a fresh piece and set it aside. Awesome. Then I get to use my knives, also awesome.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Comfort Food For A Rainy Day

I had to drive past Chinatown on 93 this morning, not enough time to stop, and I needed my noodle fix in this wet weather.

The noodles: thin hong-kong style par-cooked noodles, a freezer staple for me. I go to Chinatown when I run out. Running out of noodles is like running out of bread. Anyway, boiled al dente and -- this is important -- rinsed well in cold water. Starch is what makes your noodles stick, so wash off the extra. Plus, you don't want it to cook any further until it hits

The Broth: totally off the cuff, and off the shelf. Start with -- sigh -- chicken and vegetable bouillions and canned broth. Bring on the Asian backbone with star anise, fresh ginger and garlic off the microplane, dried abalone mushrooms (another shelf staple), fried shallots, palm sugar syrup and a spoonful of black bean and oil chili (pictured), for the glutamates (soy and yes, the msg).

Nu, put your cooled al dente noodles in a bowl with shredded greens and scallion, and top with broth. Add more oil chili or a squirt lime for bite, or more shredded ginger if you have a cold.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Like Buttahfish!

I saw my good neighbor Paul nosing through a 5 gallon bucket, so of course I came over to check it out and lo, a bunch of butterfish fresh from the trawler and due for lobster bait. He kindly gave me four of the largest. Cleaned, lined up the cast iron, and eaten as god intended: with the fingers, fresh from the sea that morning, a little salt and lemon.